Calling all the shots

With more pressure on companies to executive cut travel budgets and reduce environmentally damaging air travel, video conferencing looks to be emerging as a real alternative to face-to-face meetings. Adrian Bridgwater looks at some of the vendors that are leading this growing sector.

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By  Adrian Bridgwater Published  January 25, 2009

LifeSize

Available in the Middle East but arguably not making as many headlines as those brands mentioned already is LifeSize with its Team 200, Room 200 and Conference 200 products, the latter being its telepresence offering.

The company is trying to differentiate itself in this increasingly crowded market by offering a particularly wide range of video conferencing units. Its telepresence unit isn't a pre-fabricated room in the style of products from rivals like Polycom or Tandberg; instead it can be installed in any conference room, using any desk, with any lighting, any number of screens and microphones and so on. At the other end of its product range, LifeSize also offers products for a small room and a more straightforward ‘at-your-desk' piece of equipment that users might expect.

The message from LifeSize is that telepresence is now achievable beyond the boardroom. As bandwidth restrictions have eased, new communications channels have opened up. Companies like LifeSize and others are keen to point out that High Definition (HD) video is now possible at approximately 1Mbps and DVD quality can be achieved at about 500 Kbps.

LifeSize Conference 200 is telepresence with full HD video, but the product claims to use around only one third the bandwidth of comparable solutions. It is designed for deployment beyond the traditional fixed telepresence suite while still retaining 1080p quality on a standards-based platform. Like the other products mentioned so far, LifeSize also provides for document sharing in concert with the video and audio streams.

Users can choose between telepresence mode and video conferencing mode, providing the flexibility to create a telepresence experience or to use the full functionality of a video-conferencing, including an embedded Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) with transcoding, to connect up to six people on-demand.

LifeSize has also provisioned for high definition audio by producing its own phone which it says eliminates echoes and has electronic shielding to eliminate what it calls the distracting ‘BlackBerry buzz' experienced by many conference phones in the presence of mobile phones and smartphone PDAs.

Verdict and key benefits

This product appears to offer greater choice and extends telepresence outside of the ‘traditional' dedicated video conference room environment. Whether a broad product range is enough to set it apart from competitors who may compete on quality rather than price is a point open to debate.

Product highlights

• AMX panel software for one-button dialing.

• Open architecture.

• Full HD, 1080p30, 720p60, and 720p30 dual streams to share data and documents in full motion, high definition.

• Embedded multipoint control unit (MCU), complete with transcoding.


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